Thursday, September 22, 2011

NOW KPOPPING: JYJ Returns to Korea and is "In Heaven"

Ahh. The crucified boys in JYJ, the humble, ardent sub-group of KPOP's mightiest fivesome. 

Kim Jaejoong, Park Yoochun and Kim Junsu have made a lot of strides since their announcement in 2009 that they are departing SM Entertainment (and as such, TVXQ as the world had known it), no matter what tearful fangirls (myself included) proclaim. They released a pretty damn good Japanese mini-album, a mediocre English album (that had some really incredible high points and featured self-penned songs, something to be proud of, with certainty), along with a brutally honest Korean mini-album. 

And now, we have In Heaven, their first official "full-length" (if 10 tracks, several of which we've already heard counts as a full length) album on their native soil. Despite the proverbial blood that has been spilled between the brothers JYJ and the two other Rising Gods left standing (bias being allowed), the shots that were claimed to have been fired remain relatively silent. If a sour word has ever been voiced formally between the two requisite sides, it's always been positive (if not painfully calculated to appear so). It may leave one of the truly largest fanclubs on this planet pining for better days of yore, but still, both sides continue to display their talent -- and in that way, everyone wins.

In truth, In Heaven is a body of work that is really kind of unbelievable when you quantify the fact that it was written, head to toe, front to back, by three young men (spanning the age of 24 to 25) who just a few short years ago were card-carrying members of one of SM Entertainment's biggest idol trophies. This is not to belittle TVXQ, any of the current SM brethren or even Korean pop idols in general -- but to be completely fair, it's quite rare to see such an extreme level of creative input by an "idol group". Herein lines the real reason why JYJ broke free from the idol mold, to my eyes at least, and for the most part, their humble beginnings deserve due process and respect.

The majority of In Heaven (due for release in stores at the end of the month, but is already available for download on US iTunes if you so choose) is predictably heavy on the ballads, the vocal group's bread-and-butter as part of five-part TVXQ. Given that Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu make up the middle voices in the five-membered vocal blend, it only makes sense to show off their talents and more tight-knitted harmony with this type of genre. 

Balladry also lends itself well to emotional songwriting, and clearly, JYJ has somethings to get off their chest. The vast majority of the album reads like either a) a sorrow-filled letter to a love lost, b) an angry, but emotional grievance toward the one you lost, c) a painfully obvious autobiography ("Nine" and "Nameless Song Part 1", I'm talking to you). If you are the type who quite enjoys vividly raw vocal expertise, In Heaven is for you. 

For people like me, who much prefer their KPOP more upbeat (and not to mention more uplifting), In Heaven can at times play out as being too heavy for a normal casual listen. This opinion is willfully doubled, tripled and quadrupled when your thoughts tend to drift of the painful schism in an incredibly talented vocal group that caused said raw songwriting sessions (and as a Cassiopeian, obviously you would walk down this road). A part of me is torn, as In Heaven is at times so painfully brilliant but so beautifully left of center in a musical genre that doesn't exactly pride itself of artists who are willing to rock the boat.

Rather than pointing your attention to the main lead single of the project, the gorgeous, self-titled "In Heaven", instead, I offer you the ever-so-slightly biting curse that is "Get Out". Too often, JYJ's material could be taken as the quintessential Romeo who is slighted by his begotten Juliet (and FYI -- Juliet is not HoMin, Cassies, we aren't going down that road today, mmkay?). "Get Out" displays JYJ in a much stronger, manlier way (slightly questionable use of English aside). 

Bye bye to everything
Bye bye to love and everything else even friendship
Feels like I’m ready 
No love, I’m done with
Say that it's an ended love,
There's no need for other words

"Get Out" is one of the more uptempo numbers offered on In Heaven, although it's initially presented in a more sparkly, ballad format. Once the chorus heats up, the song really chugs along, playing off the three's vocal capabilities rather than lyrical strong points.

I adored it upon first listen, and to be totally fair and unbiased, this is not always the case with JYJ's material.

I like it because, while on the surface, it comes across as much less heavy than the majority of JYJ's self-penned material past and present, it also serves as a truly relevant snapshot as to where JYJ is as artists at the current moment. Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu are done apologizing for alleged sins committed. Pandora's Box has been opened, and they are better musicians for it. They took a leap of real faith and as their fans, how can we not be there to rally for them?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi just read what you have written here about JYJ's "In Heaven' Album and in the most part you have put to pen my thoughts completely...But of course far better said... Thank You

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